ISLAMABAD  – Sleeping pills are counterproductive and offer no real benefit in treating insomnia, says a sleep expert.

“Most people who take hypnotic (sleep inducing) drugs still have poor sleep. It re-mediates the problem in the short-term but it almost always produces a long-term consequence, which is drug dependence,” said Leon Lack, professor of psychology at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia.

“Sleeping tablets provide short-term relief but when people stop taking them, they might have a few bad nights and think they can’t sleep without taking the drug,” he was quoted as saying in a Flinders’ statement.

“Effectively you buy a bit of sleep on your credit card but then you have to pay it back later, sometimes with interest, so in the long-term you don’t gain anything. You just offset the insomnia.”

Insomnia is defined as persistent difficulties falling asleep, maintaining sleep, or both, resulting in impaired daytime functioning.

“What’s particularly frustrating to people with insomnia is that very few things work for them. So they feel a loss of control, depression and their quality of life is diminished,” Lack said.

“But it is important for people to realise that sleep isn’t just one long, homogenous period of unconsciousness - we go through different stages of sleep, from a deep sleep which lasts 80 to 90 minutes into a lighter, dreaming sleep, and over the course of a night we experience this pattern three or four times.

“During the light sleep stage, you’re likely to awaken - which is perfectly normal and increases with age - but the media’s constant reports about the importance of a solid eight hours sleep create anxiety and anxiety in the middle of the night is not conducive to sleep. So then it becomes ingrained,” Lack said.

“If you don’t fall asleep within 15 minutes of going to bed then get up. Don’t lie there awake because that associates the bedroom with frustration and anxiety.” Difficulty falling asleep can also be caused by a delayed body clock, he said.

Juice from potato cures ulcers

Juice from the humble potato could treat gastric ulcers, thanks to its unique anti-bacterial properties, says a new research. A Manchester University microbiology team now hopes the compound, dubbed ‘potato juice’ could go into production as a daily diet supplement. Inspiration came as one of the department’s scientists tucked into a spud for Sunday lunch.

It led to the discovery of a key molecule which could both cure and prevent the bacteria that lives in the stomach and causes stomach ulcers and heartburn. Uniquely, unlike with anti-biotics, the gut bug cannot develop resistance to the ‘potato juice’ which also does not cause any side-effects. Scientists even carried out the test on different types of potatoes — discovering that Maris Piper and King Edward varieties worked the best.

The process to extract the as yet unnamed molecule has now been patented, with hopes it could one day be sold as a supplement similar to pro-biotic yoghurt drinks, the Daily Mail reported.

Ian Roberts, professor of microbiology at the Faculty of Life Sciences, who worked on the discovery, said: “When I first heard about the idea of using potatoes to treat stomach ulcers I have to admit I was a bit sceptical. But on another level I wasn’t surprised - a lot of botanical products have very interesting compounds and we just have to find them.” “We see this ‘potato juice’ as a preventative measure to stop stomach ulcers developing that people would take as part of a healthy lifestyle. It could be a huge market if we can get it developed,” added Roberts.

HAV shots effective for 10 years

Anti-hepatitis A virus (HAV) shots give infants immunity for least 10 years, according to latest research. The study found that any transfer of the mother’s HAV antibodies does not lower the child’s immune response to the vaccine. The World Health Organisation estimates that 1.4 million cases of HAV occur worldwide every year.

HAV affects the liver and typically occurs in areas with poor sanitation where ingestion of contaminated food or water can transmit the virus, the journal Hepatology reports.

Early symptoms include fatigue, fever, abdominal pain, nausea, appetite loss, jaundice, a yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes, dark urine, through which bile is excreted from the blood stream.

In the United States, HAV cases have decreased by 90 percent in the past 20 years, with roughly 20,000 new cases reported each year, thanks to routine vaccination, according a statement of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Umid Sharapov, a CDC epidemiologist, who led the study, said this was the first study to examine the effectiveness of a two-dose inactivated hepatitis A vaccine in children younger than two years over a 10-year period.

Researchers also investigated whether maternal anti-HAV antibody transfer to children impacts the vaccine protection against HAV. With parental consent, they enrolled full-term healthy infants at six months. Mothers were tested for total antibody to HAV.

The 197 infants and toddlers were broken into three age groups: group one - infants aged between six and 12 months; group two - toddlers between 12 and 18 months; and group three -toddlers between 15 and 21 months.

Each group was randomised by maternal anti-HAV status. HAV antibody levels were measured at one and six months, and additional follow-up took place at three, five, seven and 10 years after the second dose of hepatitis A vaccine.

At one month following the second dose of the hepatitis A vaccine, children in all groups showed signs of protection from the virus. At the 10-year follow-up, most children retained anti-HAV protection.